The Virginia Military Institute, ever the underdog. . . . For longtime VMI football fans, the above score may be all-too-painfully reminiscent. I recall the first time I heard of VMI. It was a University of Maryland vs. VMI football game in 1971. I was captivated by VMI from then on and began there as a “Rat” five years later. My father taught physics at Maryland and we typically had football season tickets. The Maryland games then weren’t much to watch – from 1969 to ‘71, Maryland was 3-7, 2-9, 2-9, and they always lost to Penn State. But the Shakey’s pizza on the way home from the usual drubbing was great fun.

On that field of battle in 1971, it was Maryland 38, VMI 0. (Between 1969 and ‘71, VMI was 0-10, 1-10, 1-10 – tough years, even for VMI.) But, alas, the number of attorneys presently engaging in legal maneuverings over whether the irrational, paradoxically racist ideology of Critical Race Theory (CRT) adopted by Richmond politicians – beginning with the governor – will win the day against traditional, meritocratic VMI, is 38-3, nearly identical to at least one lopsided contest on the gridiron a half-century ago. (In case you didn’t know, “meritocracy in the classroom” [emphasis added] is one of many evil practices that smacks of racism, “white supremacy culture,” and Western capitalism and imperialism, according to CRT scholars.)[1]

With its roots in neo-Marxism, CRT “assumes that racism is present in everything under a doctrine known as ‘systemic racism.’” (The terms systemic and structural are used interchangeably in the literature.) Leading CRT authors declare systemic racism to be “the ordinary state of affairs in society, present in all interactions, institutions, and phenomena, and effectively permanent in society” – unless, of course, CRT ideologues are put in charge. Adopting CRT’s view of systemic racism requires one to accept that racism is “baked-in to all of society,” meaning that actual evidence for racist behavior is entirely unnecessary.[2]  

One might ask, “Why should it require a platoon of 38 attorneys to investigate a school of well under 2,000 Honor-Code-bound cadets charged with systemic or structural racism?” One might think, “If such racism exists systemically or structurally – which by conventional definition, means it is embedded in the school itself – it should not be very difficult to find.” One could not be faulted to reason this way.  

But CRT requires one to accept new, irrational definitions of traditional words that were previously understood in rational terms. It is an old phenomenon. Twenty-five centuries ago, in Thucydides’s History of the Peloponnesian War, the Greek historian wrote concerning one period of the decades-long-war involving the city-state of Corcyra:

To fit in with the change of events, words, too, had to change their usual meanings. What used to be described as a thoughtless act of aggression was now regarded as the courage one would expect to find in a party member; to think of the future and wait was merely another way of saying one was a coward.[3]

Former President George W. Bush provided an instructive passage in his memoir pertaining to the conventional meaning of the word “systemic.” In Decision Points, Bush 43 wrote of the financial crisis he faced in 2008 which led to the Troubled Asset Relief Program. He wrote, “The strategy was a breathtaking intervention in the free market. It flew against all my instincts. But it was necessary to pull the country out of the panic.” After weeks of financial agony, including the failure of the nation’s two largest mortgage entities, the president told his economic team, “This is no longer a case-by-case deal. We tried to stem the tide, but the problem is deeper than we thought. This is systemic” [emphasis added].[4]

Regardless of what one thinks of Bush’s decision, the president’s words made clear the difference between what is a “case-by-case” phenomenon and what is “systemic” (or structural). The former takes place occasionally and is dependent upon one (or more) individual’s action(s). The latter takes place consistently (because embedded) and is not dependent upon individual action but, rather, upon institutional, or structural, or systemic design or intent.

Readers may yawn, “So what?” Answer: because the Virginia governor’s letter directing the investigation of VMI – to the tune of $1 million (probably more) – for a supposed “clear and appalling culture of ongoing structural racism” [emphasis added] contained in it examples of activities which were intended to justify the investigation. The problem is, not a single one of the examples described by Governor Ralph Northam (VMI 1981) constituted structural or systemic racism. Rather, all of them were case-by-case or occasional incidents of racial insensitivity, or unkindness, or poor judgment on the part of individuals – at least one of which, the stupid but equally unserious lynching threat made to a Black Rat by a White upperclassman during an intense workout, was dealt with vigorously by VMI (the cadet was suspended). As two of the ancients expressed, “What is man, that he should be pure, Or he who is born of a woman, that he should be righteous?”; and, “. . . in Thy sight no man living is righteous.”[5]

Only the irrational, utopian ideologue expects to find perfect behavior by all, or even one, by any standard. Not even Robespierre, known as The Incorruptible to his fellow Jacobins, could meet the standard. As a result he eventually succumbed to the guillotine in July of 1794, to which he personally had condemned hundreds, if not more, of his countrymen during the Reign of Terror. For all his vaunted Marxist orthodoxy, unknown to his disciples Lenin accepted gobs of (capitalist, imperialist) German cash, which sustained the Russian Revolution long enough for him to pull Russia out of the Great War in 1917, sparing Germany from a two-front war from that point on.

In George Orwell’s classic, Nineteen Eighty-Four, the main character Winston Smith’s frighteningly orthodox coworker remarks, “It’s a beautiful thing, the destruction of words.”[6] Indeed, we appear to be living Nineteen Eighty-Four, as many people are noticing these days. If nothing else, that is something that CRT has been instrumental in accomplishing, with the words systemic and structural in its vanguard – CRT has redefined these terms so as to effectively destroy their usefulness as words. This alteration matters – a lot – because CRT is a reality-reshaping package deal intended to remake all of society.

Today this CRT-based attempt to remake society is found at various levels in education, government, the media, and beyond. It is more than a passing campus fad, as many concerned Americans are realizing. One specific example is a CRT-based middle school curriculum called “Equitable Math.” One might be excused for assuming that even if the liberal arts were subject to CRT’s pernicious influence, certainly the discipline of mathematics could not be. Unfortunately, if you made that assumption, you were quite wrong.

Equitable Math expects teachers to ask themselves, “How has structural racism [emphasis added] impacted the families and community connected to my school?” Note this is the same phrase charged by Governor Northam in his letter to VMI. While admittedly this curriculum contains some teaching points that are widely recognized as useful in the classroom, there is much that is, well, problematic. Here are a few of the themes that appear frequently throughout the 81-page study guide:

  1. “White supremacy culture shows up in math classrooms when . . .”;
  • Teachers are to ask themselves, “Did I critically engage in antiracist work?” and,

“How can I incorporate antiracist practices into my classroom?”;

  • Teachers are advised that white supremacy culture (in the form of Western, Eurocentric math) “does not give room for the systemic [emphasis added] reasons students fail, which often lie in problematic expectation [that is, expecting the right answer].”[7]   

Then there is this: “Identify and challenge the ways that math is used to uphold capitalist, imperialist, and racist views. . . . Expose students to examples of people who have used math as resistance. Provide learning opportunities that use math as resistance” [emphasis added].[8] Could it be any clearer that the bulk of time and effort in the classroom is spent not on learning math, but, rather, learning to hate capitalism and Western culture and to resist supposed racism whether or not it actually exists? Students subjected to Equitable Math probably will not learn much mathematics, but they will surely learn to be good little social justice warriors. Math is merely one of the many vehicles for administering CRT’s pernicious poison to the rising generation. And it begins with the fraudulent redefinition of key words. Control the language, control the culture. (Suggestion to VMI: stop legitimizing CRT by referring to the “equity audit.” Nothing is equitable about it).

So why does this high probability “systemic” (that is, embedded in the curriculum itself) math failure concern VMI, or any other institution of higher learning in Virginia? Two reasons:

1), when Equity Math or other CRT-indoctrinated students arrive several years later at VMI or anywhere else, they will be ill-equipped and will likely suffer poor grades as a result, providing further grounds for complaints of racism real or imagined – if not the complete takeover of such institutions by the Diversity crowd, which surely is one part of their intended remaking of society (perceived also in the recent slavery reparations bill aimed at five Virginia schools – including VMI – passed by Virginia’s House of Delegates); and,

2), the 38 attorneys currently parlaying with VMI’s 3 were hired by a governor who had already declared publicly the presence of “ongoing structural racism” at the school. Many politicians in Richmond have bought into CRT’s “Un-good” – Orwell’s term[9] – which is the basis for both the illogic of Equitable Math and the investigation at VMI. What do you think will be the nature of the findings of the 38?  

While it remains to be seen whether the investigating firm’s impeccable social justice bona fides – which include promoting CRT – will make any difference, VMI’s huge upset of tenth-ranked Furman, 14-13, in the opening game of this spring’s football season serves as a reminder of what historian Gordon W. Prange (University of Maryland) noted in his highly acclaimed work on Pearl Harbor, At Dawn We Slept: that is, the unexpected can happen, and it often does.

VMI, ever the underdog: . . . As has long been heard at VMI football games, “For Though The Odds Be Against Us, We’ll Not Care. . . . The Keydets Will Fight ‘Em And Never Say Die, That’s The Spirit Of VMI.”

[1] Jeff E. Schapiro, “VMI, besieged by Union in 1864, now under attack by lawyers,” Richmond Times-Dispatch, Feb. 11, 2021; Gordon C. Morse, “VMI investigation plumbing new depths of ineptitude,” The Virginian-Pilot, Feb. 13, 2021. For “meritocracy,” see A Pathway to Equitable Math Instruction, Dismantling Racism in Mathematics Instruction (N.p., n.d.), 12, 78, accessed at (Mar. 5, 2021).

[2] James Lindsay, “What Is Critical Race Theory?” New Discourses, Jan. 10, 2021; Ray M. Sanchez, “Critical Race Theory and New Racism: Abandon Hope All Ye Who Enter Here,” The Aquila Report, Oct. 1, 2020.

[3] Rex Warner, trans., Thucydides: History of the Peloponnesian War (London and New York: Penguin Books, 1972 [translation copyright, 1954], 242.

[4] George W. Bush, Decision Points (New York: Crown Publishers, 2010), 458-59.

[5] Letter, Gov. Ralph Northam, Lt. Gov. Justin Fairfax, Attorney General Mark Herring, et al, to Mr. John Boland (president) and members, VMI Board of Visitors, Oct. 19, 2020 (accessed at link, article, Rich Griset, “Northam calls for VMI racism probe,” Virginia Business, Oct. 20, 2020); Job 15:14; Psalm 143:2.

[6] George Orwell, Nineteen Eighty-Four (New York: Harcourt, Brace, and World, Inc., 1949), 52.

[7] A Pathway to Equitable Math Instruction, 24-28, 30-34, 37, 78-79.

[8] A Pathway to Equitable Math Instruction, 8.

[9] Orwell, Nineteen Eighty-Four, 52.

Forrest L. Marion

Forrest L. Marion graduated from the Virginia Military Institute with a BS degree in civil engineering. He earned an MA in military history from the University of Alabama and a doctorate in American history from the University of Tennessee. Since 1998, Dr. Marion has served as a staff historian and oral historian at the Air Force Historical Research Agency, Maxwell AFB, Alabama. Commissioned in 1980, he retired from the U.S. Air Force Reserve in 2010. Forrest L. Marion graduated from the Virginia Military Institute with a BS degree in civil engineering. He earned an MA in military history from the University of Alabama and a doctorate in American history from the University of Tennessee.

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